Let me start by saying that we have spotty cell coverage in Utah, so these posts may end up being a bit delayed. Last year AT&T unlimited let us use Verizon, but this year they are cracking down on out of network data usage, so we need to be careful with what we do and where. I am also going to do a completely separate post on the repair work that we had done in Phoenix. I am waiting on additional pictures from the repair shop in order to complete that. Obviously it wasn’t a complete disaster as we are already back on the road, but I want to walk you through all of that separately. That leaves explaining why the post is titled “apartment living”, which is a pretty interesting story in and of itself.
Right after Lee had his heart attack, I was contacted by Kathy who is a long time blog reader. She and I had never met, but she has followed our travels since the beginning and wanted to help. She is a regional manager for a property management company and they have facilities in the Phoenix area. She talked to her boss, explained our situation, and received permission for us to stay in one of their model apartments. Initially when she sent the email I was confused. Not because she was unclear, it was a succinct and professional email, but because my brain couldn’t register the fact that someone had made this offer. At the time we had no idea how long the repair would take and knew that at $100+ a day our bank account was going to take a major hit. Not to mention the fact that we needed someplace dog friendly.
Out of nowhere a stranger stepped in with a solution to all of my problems, and it goes without saying that sort of thing doesn’t happen every day. We exchanged emails and then phone calls and I realized she was completely sincere. When I realized the offer was real, I actually burst into tears. I was overwhelmed by their kindness. I learned later that they felt as if they knew us through the blog and because our budgets and honest posts had been so helpful to them when they were making the decision to start full timing they wanted to help.
So we had a destination when we rolled out of the Arizonian on Monday morning and Lee and I said goodbye to Sue and Guy knowing we might see them later in April. We had a noon appointment at Premier Coachworks which was across town.
Because traffic was lighter than expected we ended up getting there around 10:30am. It is a busy place, and when we pulled in we found that we were blocking their driveway. That was OK and they welcomed us and eventually had us pull up close to their office. Although we had sent pictures, it is next to impossible to diagnose what was happening over the phone, and we knew the problem could be anything from a minor skin issue to a complete frame repair. I am going to write about this visit in detail in my next post, but for now will say we felt comfortable enough with the service manager and repair tech to leave our RV and authorize up to $500 worth of work to diagnose the problem.
That was not a foregone conclusion by the way. A couple of times we have dropped off our rig for service and felt like it was being held hostage. That’s a huge deal when you full-time RV and we both agreed that if we weren’t “feeling it” we would go to a plan B. As soon as I was sure we would be dropping it off, I called Ann, the property manager. She knew there was a chance we wouldn’t need the apartment at all, but they had gotten it ready anyway.
We headed that way, which was luckily only 20 minutes from the repair shop, and stopped at Chipotle for a quick lunch. Once we had our food and were sitting down, we took a moment to talk. We both agreed that we should proceed cautiously, but were optimistic. The possibility of catastrophic rig failure was still in the back of our minds, bu we felt that was pretty unlikely. We were both looking forward to being able to just sit for a minute and headed to the apartment complex.
Redhawk rentals owns several different apartment complexes, but we were staying at Sheely Farms. The website had a nice video with the model walk through which turned out to be the same unit we were staying in. When we arrived we introduced ourselves to Ann and she took us on a tour of the facility. I was really impressed by how nice it was and we toured the pool, workout facility, business centers and then the apartment itself. Maintenance had done a checkout on the apartment and was very sorry that the dishwasher wasn’t working, but they had the part on order. I just laughed and explained we hadn’t had a dishwasher in four years, so I wouldn’t mind doing dishes by hand.
After the tour was done and we had the keys, we drove the truck around and brought Jack inside. This was his first experience with apartment living and seemed a little overwhelmed by all the space. He followed me from room to room not letting me out of his sight, which was a bit of a pain as we tried to unpack. It was hard knowing what to bring since we didn’t know how long we were staying, so we had several suitcases. Eventually Jack settled down and started making himself at home.
We finally received the call around 4pm that the problem had been diagnosed. W drove back up, so we could see the damage in person, received our quote and approved the work. The estimate was roughly 3 days work, so I grabbed some snacks out of the fridge and we headed back to the apartment. By this time it was late and it was either peanut butter sandwiches or take out so we decided on Pizza. I went and picked it up, but unfortunately the order was wrong, so I had to wait while another pizza was made. They did give me the mistake though and finally we were eating dinner around 7:15pm.
In anticipation of cooking some meals, I had brought some canned items with me, but we discovered at this point there were no pots and pans. We could certainly go back up and get ours from the RV, but Lee said since it was only a few days we should try to not make ourselves crazy. Actually that was his common theme throughout the three days. He had completely quit smoking the Thursday before and was super zen about the whole thing. The last thing I wanted to do was make his life more difficult but I was definitely struggling more. I was still stuck on 10 cigarettes a day and having a hard time getting over the hump. I was seriously thinking about going to e-cigarettes at that point and really just trying to work it all out.
The next morning we woke up and headed to our drug test/physicals. We had scheduled these for our summer job weeks before and again were thrilled that the location was so close to the apartment. Unfortunately despite our having appointments, it took two hours to complete and I was really annoyed by the whole thing. Popping in to do a quick drug test is one thing, but losing two hours of my life, unpaid, really ticked me off. Afterwards I was looking for a place for us to eat lunch and stumbled across the fact that there was a Sweet Tomatoes nearby. This was one of my favorite places in Oregon and I had no idea they were in Phoenix. Best of all I knew everything was pretty healthy in that restaurant and I didn’t need to worry about taking Lee there.
That lunch really cheered me up, especially since we were on our way to see Bill and Nancy. We met them at our very first RV-Dreams rally and had been lucky enough to see them a few times since. We had always really liked them and since they had been on the road a long time really looked up to them. When we heard they were coming out west wanted to meet up. Once again the timing was perfect and our paths crossed while we were in Phoenix. Plus they were staying at Lost Dutchman State Park, which has a beautiful view of the Superstition Mountains. We happily paid our $7 day use fee and headed to their site.
Seeing them was exactly what we both needed and really helped reconnect us to why we had started his lifestyle to begin with. We both decided we needed to just rest the next day and ended up hanging out at the apartment. This gave me the time to really reflect on the differences between apartment and RV living and I was surprised by how many there were. We often tell non-rvers we live in an apartment on wheels, but in retrospect that isn’t really the case. Since we haven’t actually lived in an apartment since 1990, I suppose its understandable that we forgot what it is like. When I realized how many differences there were, I started to make a list. Big shock right?
- An apartment is solid. You can move from room to room without shaking anything. Consequently I didn’t always know where Lee was. I can feel him moving around the RV but at one point I actually “lost him” when he was in the spare bedroom and that never happens in the Open Range.
- Along the same lines, an apartment is more sound proof. Lee could be in the bedroom reading with the door open and not hear the TV. Thick walls made this possible, which was again very different.
- As I mentioned earlier the closet space was HUGE. That being said there was limited storage for “outside stuff” which we have in abundance in the belly of our RV.
- There were two bathrooms. I know many RV’s have 1-1/2 baths but two full bathrooms and two tubs was nice for the early mornings. Those of you who share a bathroom know what I mean :).
- Speaking of bathtubs, I thought I had gotten over missing one, but apparently not. I took 5 baths in three days in the apartment and it was lovely being able to just go soak and read a book. This was a major stress reliever for me back in the day, and was a nice alternative to smoking a cigarette.
- Although we weren’t out in the open spaces, having a fenced in patio for the puppy was great. I still had to walk him though, and I will say that wasn’t nearly as fun. There were lots of distractions in the apartment complex and getting him to focus was tough.
- Speaking of which it was weird having people coming and going at all hours. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very quiet complex, but some people worked nights and cars were coming and going at all hours, which is pretty rare in campgrounds.
- It was also different that in general people couldn’t have cared less who we were. In RV parks, folks are always curious when new people come and go, and even if they don’t talk to you they check our your rig, your dog, etc. Apartment living is much more anonymous. That might be different in a 55 plus community, but these were working folks and in general there was a lack of interest. That’t not necessarily a bad thing, but I was really struck by the difference. I have grown so used to the subtle interactions in the RVing community I was largely oblivious to them.
Really the entire experience was very interesting. Neither Lee or I are particularly interested in owning another sticks and bricks house so when we get off the road we will probably end up in an apartment, condo, or manufactured home. It’s nice to know there are some fundamental trade-off advantages, since we will be giving up so much when the time comes. I really appreciated the opportunity, not only because it was free, but also because it gave us a small window into what that would look like.
Thankfully that evening I was able to express my gratitude in person because Kathy and her husband Jim were back in town. They both work remotely and are able to travel, and we were all happy to be able to meet them in person. I wanted to buy them dinner as a thank you, but she absolutely insisted and since they were still making “corporate money” I reluctantly agreed. She did have me pick the place though and I ultimately settled on Claim Jumper.
Finding a place with healthy menu options, reasonable prices, and a nice ambiance was pretty challenging. I spent a ton of time googling and looking on Yelp until I stumbled across a free app called Healthy Out. This app shows all restaurants in your area and then gives the healthy menu choices. Some restaurants may only have a couple of salads, but others, including Claim Jumper have many more. Unfortunately the specifics are not included, but I was able to use my Calorie King App to get the specifics for the menu items.
Really, I am spending way to much time obsessing about all of this. Even Bill and Nancy said they eat healthy at home and let it go when dining out, but the lack of readily available information is driving me nuts. It’s hard to make good choices without the data and since the info exists and is intentionally being suppressed I find that very annoying. Taking Nancy’s advice, I was able to let that go once we got to the restaurant.
First of all, Kathy and Jim are just lovely people. We instantly connected and could have stayed talking for hours. We also really liked the ambiance in the restaurant. The booths were large and the high ceilings meant the noise level wasn’t too high. Most importantly the service was excellent. It has been a long time since we have had service that good in a restaurant and it really added to the experience. We spent the time getting to know each other and learning their story and walked away feeling as if we had made friends for life. It wasn’t just the generosity of their offer, it was the fact that we all just clicked. It’s always special when that happens.
Kathy, since I know you are reading this, once again I wanted to say THANK YOU! It really was one of the nicest things that has happened to us since we have been on the road, and I am humbled (in a good way) by the entire experience. We really did walk away feeling as if we have known you guys forever, and hope to see you this summer in Oregon. Next time dinner is on us!!!
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